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79 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating!!!!!
I am not an historian nor am I usually interested in documentaries. I accidentally turned the channel on the t.v. and was immediately captivated by the history of the prohibition era. I read the last review. I can't dispute the author's factual accounts, but from what I saw and learned the minute details that were missed or left out were irrelevant. I say that because...
Published on October 6, 2011 by Roxy_523

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82 of 119 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Echoing the Conventional Wisdom
Lavishly produced, including recreated period music and a treasure trove of photographs, the latest "documentary" from Ken Burns manages to narrowly miss the mark. In most American colleges and universities, Burns would receive an "A+" if he submitted an essay resembling his television documentary adaptation of Geoffrey Ward's script, but that would be due to carelessness...
Published on October 5, 2011 by Borowy26


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79 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating!!!!!, October 6, 2011
By 
Roxy_523 (Detroit,MI USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ken Burns: Prohibition [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I am not an historian nor am I usually interested in documentaries. I accidentally turned the channel on the t.v. and was immediately captivated by the history of the prohibition era. I read the last review. I can't dispute the author's factual accounts, but from what I saw and learned the minute details that were missed or left out were irrelevant. I say that because even though the last reviewer tells of inaccuracies I think that the amount of information that was given left me with a passion to want to research more for myself. It's like having bad teachers and wanting to drop out of school then the next semester you have a dedicated teacher. That teacher can't teach you all you'll ever need to learn but gives you the thirst to want to learn more. So much to want to leave a review and purchase the Blu-ray. That's what I got from it.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prohibition in America comes alive through film clips and focused narration. Bravo for Ken Burns!, October 19, 2011
This review is from: Ken Burns: Prohibition (DVD)
Ken Burns, the undisputed master of the TV documentary, has done it again. This 3-part 5-1/2 hour PBS series kept my eyes glued to the screen while my own impressions of the world of prohibition, which were mostly gleaned from stories my parents told me, became real through the old film clips and the excellent narration and historical perspective.

Looking back, it seems as if the nation was crazy to actually pass a law that prohibited alcoholic beverages in all its forms. But times were different then. In the small town Americana of 1919 men were getting dead drunk and abusing their families. For the first time in history, women asserted themselves and organized the Women's Christian Temperance Union, marching in the streets and eventually influencing legislation. It was different in the cities however, where an immigrant population did not see liquor as a menace. Thus began the age of Prohibition and the biggest crime wave and social change that America has ever seen.

This documentary tells it all with excellent film clips, fine historical research and clear and focused narration. I loved every minute of it, learned a lot, and revisited old stories told to me as a child. This series is absolutely spectacular, I give it my highest rating and am delighted that it is now available for purchase.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars War On Drugs, the Prequel, February 19, 2012
By 
Michael Tullberg (Los Angeles, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ken Burns: Prohibition (DVD)
Anyone who wants to understand just why the present-day War On Drugs has been such a good-intentioned but simultaneously cataclysmic failure should take a good, long look at this film. It becomes so abundantly clear that sadly so many in this country have not learned valuable lessons from the events from the past. The (correct) point that any attempt to try and legislate human morality is doomed to fail has rarely been made so clear than in Ken Burns' latest triumph. Bravo yet once again to the USA's most important film-maker.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A documentary with a very strong point of view, February 26, 2012
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This review is from: Ken Burns: Prohibition (DVD)
First -- the images on the blu ray are beautiful. Since much of the story occurs after the advent of motion pictures this program incorporates many moving picture clips and so is much more dynamic than some of the Ken Burns programs that cover earlier historical periods. The story line is compelling. However there is a definite editorial point of view that runs through the entire series which I understand to be "one cannot legislate morality and because of this prohibition did more harm than good" and though not explicit I see a suggestion that the current anti drug laws are similarly flawed and doomed to failure at great cost to the country, its people and the respect for law. I can understand why many would object to this program because of the strong editorial slant.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seeing Prohibition with your very eyes, December 26, 2012
By 
JazzFeathers (Verona - Italy) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ken Burns: Prohibition (DVD)
I read Okrent's book, `Last Call' (on which this documentary is based) last year and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I enjoyed this documentary quite as well.

There are three dvds in here, for a total of more than 6 hours of footage. The first dvd covers the birth of the idea of prohibiting alcohol from Americans' lives, back in the 1800s: how people lived, what they drank and how much, how this affected everyday life, how the first prohibition movements worked. The second discusses the life of the 18th Amendment: how it was lobbied by the anti-saloon league, the way distrust towards immigrants played a big part in it, how this changed the life of people, especially youth. The last dvd addresses the way gangsters profited from the law, how this took away the trust of people for the law and order and especially for Prohibition, how when the Great Depression kicked in the 18th Amendment was finally repealed.

There is a huge amount of images from the time discussed. Mainly photographs in the first dvd, but a huge amount of it. So many videos in the other two, coming from Twenties films, but also non-fiction footage and even some personal photos and video. I love this.
Beside interview with experts - including Okrent - there are a number of interviews with people who were young during Prohibition. Oral history is incredible. People who remember often have a very different view, their tales have a different mood from the commentary from experts. And the one always enriches the other.

There is a thing where the documentary goes in a different direction than the book. Where the book focuses on everyday life and the way Prohibition affected it, the documentary focuses more on personalities. Politicians, anti-saloon league members, judges, cops, personalities of different kind, including journalists and gangsters. Where the book only touches upon these people's life and involvement in Prohibition, the documentary gives a full portrait of them, and I liked a lot the way stories mixed with images. It gives a very strong feeling for the era.

So, maybe there is nothing particularly new about the info the documentary provides: it's the same as the book, is basically the same as so many other books about Prohibition. But I loved the footage. In a way, it was like being there.

Recommended.
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35 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Ken Burns PBS documentary that mostly hits but sometimes misses., October 7, 2011
This review is from: Ken Burns: Prohibition (DVD)
PBS documentarian Burns shares the byline credit this time around with his business partner Lynn Novick. The script is again by Geoffrey C. Ward, based on his book. As noted by a previous reviewer here there are factual errors and they should be blamed on Ward. Burns is more interested in the collages he creates from thousands (literally - just look at the ed credits) of stills that he mixes with some silent film footage with newly added sound effects ("talking pictures" were not common until 1927 - except for experimental film). Then he adds famous actors reading quotes from people relevant to the story at hand.

The show is divided into three parts and these are each placed on a separate DVD in the 3-disc package. The parts run about 100 minutes each. There are just over 90 minutes of "bonus features", consisting of a seven-minute "behind the scenes" (music scoring, the celebrity voices), deleted scenes (about 25 minutes) and 16 interview segments (totaling 53 minutes) of raw footage with timing counters.

There is no booklet or other informational insert in the package that is more generic than other Burns DVDs from PBS.

Burns is discussing a subject - not necessarily a time period - and spends the first third of the program just leading up to why prohibition occurred.

While some of the facts are wrong, so is the music - at least for the period. Many of the songs you will hear in the background are from the 1930s, not the `teens or the twenties. But most folks won't notice - as they won't notice the factual inaccuracies.

Burns does "slick" and "visually appealing" films and this is just another one of those. It's worth spending time with and - if you liked what you saw and heard on TV, the DVD gives you more of it; it's just not "dressed up" like it was on TV.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Changed My Mind, March 15, 2014
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This review is from: Ken Burns: Prohibition [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Like most people, I have no direct memory of prohibition. It has always seemed to me a stupid, and ultimately failed attempt to enforce morality by law. Of course, morality is always enforced by law--don't kill, don't steal--but trying to enforce prohibition seemed wrong-headed. For one thing, drinking was common even among "good" people, and would require messy and problematic enforcement. Furthermore, the problem did not seem to be drinking, but rather over drinking. Why not enforce laws against the latter and leave the former alone (as our dwi laws do)?
After watching this documentary, I changed my mind.
I found out I was completely underestimating the ubiquity of alcohol abuse, and the havoc it caused on families and women and children--not to mention animals, prior to prohibition. I was thinking of alcohol abuse as it exists today, which left me unprepared for how it existed then.
Here's what I think after watching the video: Prohibition was a brave, compassionate, and necessary attempt to rescue families and worker productivity and children. It was not a failure, because it changed even to this day the way we view alcohol.
We dropped prohibition, but something valuable stuck with us.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ken Burns brings us an important piece of American history ~, July 1, 2012
This review is from: Ken Burns: Prohibition [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933. Ironically this period say an increase in alcohol consumption. But most importantly, it gave power and money to organized crime. Burns absolutely captures the mood of this time period.

One of the best parts of this collection is that Burns and his researchers went back to many years before prohibition and followed the initial stirrings of the anti alcohol movement. He takes us to mid 1800s Kansas, Ohio, and other places where women formed groups against alcohol sales while promoting suffrage. By the end of the first disc, Prohibition is going into effect. The second disc really gets into the events of the actual years during Prohibition. Not only do we look at the most notorious gangster of them all, Al Capone a.k.a. Scarface, but we also see organized crime rings cropping up all over the country. Many were founded by ex-cops, ex-lawyers, and ex-politicians.

The story is wonderfully narrated by many talented people, including Tom Hanks, Sam Waterston, John Lithgow, Samuel L Jackson, and Blythe Danner. The narration is particularly well directed and placed. Burns and co-director Lynn Novick are seasoned veterans of documentary directing (she also worked with Burns on The War). Their talents show a masterful touch. We never really get the feeling that we are being taught something, but instead are brought into the stories and times as a silent observer. When you finish the documentary, you really get a sense that you learned something but you just don't feel it was forced on you.

Another great benefit of Burns' directing is that we see views from all sides of the story. We do see the reasons why Prohibition came into effect. We also see the impossibility of enforcing these laws in a non-totalitarian state. There isn't really a 'lesson'. Burns and company aren't saying "Look how foolish this Prohibition thing was!", but instead they are showing the causes leading up to this time and the effect the laws had on the United States, and even the US allies such as Britain.

While this isn't quite the powerhouse that "The War" was or the epic story that Burns told in "Lewis and Clark", it is nonetheless a great documentary of a pivotal time in American history. Burns and Novick really do a wonderful job of bringing life to the black and white photos and grainy short film clips. It's a time in history that most Americans are passingly familiar with, but it is so interesting to actually get into the heart of the story and see all of the good and bad associated with this time.

One note: I am watching the Blu-Ray edition checked out from my local library. While I am a fan of Blu-Ray in general for the clarity and the audio, I do feel that it is rather unnecessary for this documentary. Most of the old photography isn't meant to be crystal clear. I do recommend the HD version (streaming or Blu-Ray), but I feel like the story wouldn't be any less amazing in standard definition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A noble experiment, October 30, 2011
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This review is from: Ken Burns: Prohibition (DVD)
"Prohibition" is a must-see for anyone interested in this documentary directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. This is an in-depth study of how circumstances were right to amend the Constitution and prohibit the sale of alcohol in 1920. Burns and Novick did a thought-provoking job of raising the questions of the role of government versus individual rights, issues we still face today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Bootleg It!, July 27, 2014
This review is from: Ken Burns: Prohibition [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Ken Burns can be hit or miss at times regarding the subjects of his documentary series, but this one is definitely a winner. It takes a very close look at the circumstances surrounding prohibition and it's effects, and does so with keen insight. Alcohol may not currently be on our radar regarding the "War on Drugs" but it is enlightening to see what happened when it was, and how that compares to modern day views on alcohol and other drugs we now consider "legal" or "illegal".
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Ken Burns: Prohibition [Blu-ray]
Ken Burns: Prohibition [Blu-ray] by Lynn Novick (Blu-ray - 2011)
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